Pentecost Means No “Supremacies”

We celebrate the Church’s “birth” on Pentecost Sunday, the day the promised Holy Spirit arrived.  This year we celebrated on May 20th, a Sunday where at my church its large Filipino group took charge of the service.  The VIDEO below shows the sermon I gave, but before you watch it, please read these

Corrections, Additions, Disclaimers:

I think about my sermons a lot, but then usually speak extemporaneously, with little or no notes; so sometimes things don’t come out quite as planned.  Here are three main things I wanted to “disclaim,” at least slightly, or correct.

1)  At 13:23 into the sermon I simply misspeak, saying that half the anger of the current white supremacist backlash doesn’t come from “hating whites.”  I meant to say “hating people of color.”  I was pointing out a great irony of this backlash.  Though of course many white Emptysupremacist do hate people of color, perhaps as much of their anger comes from hating what they consider this country’s white elites.  I say the “majority” of their anger comes from hating these elites, though it’s probably a slim majority, like 50.9%.  People of color and women continue to be the live proxies for their anger, and they take it out on them rather than the white elites they detest.  I could also have added that a decisive number of whites who voted for Trump did so because they hated “white elites.”

2)  I say that James Baldwin’s words concern patriarchy as well as white supremacy, which I think they do, though he doesn’t say this directly, just heavily implies it.

3)  I say white supremacy and patriarchy hurt whites and males as much as it does people of color and women.  I do stand by this, in a way, though I do not mean to equate this to the suffering of people of color and women at the hands of whites and males.  This suffering has been horrendous at both the personal and systemic level, and it continues, in many cases unabated, or only slightly improved.  But it does hurt whites and males deeply and profoundly, as all oppressors are hurt when they oppress others.  They spend tremendous amounts of psychic and physical energy maintaining this oppression, and they close themselves off from being in touch with and developing their own humanity.  It’s a stunning loss and hurt for them, though they often don’t know this consciously.  In fact, they often continue oppressing others to shield themselves from their own monstrousness, their unease and emptiness.

WhiteSupremThere’s more I could say to “correct, add, or disclaim,” and not just because I might have misspoken or said things that could be taken the wrong way.  I lean heavily on James Baldwin’s writings in this sermon, and say a couple of times that his writings are complex, ironic, paradoxical.  They are this way partly because the nature of the things I touched on—and I really did just touch on them—is also supremely complex, ironic, and paradoxical.  All this complexity underlies the main message of the sermon: the first thing the Holy Spirit does is to announce that in this “new religion,” which quickly becomes Christianity, there is no room for “supremacies,” not white supremacy, male supremacy, or any kind.  At the center of our faith, I say, is an empty tomb.  Jesus isn’t there.  He’s out on the peripheries, the margins, of society.  He was often criticized for hanging out there, but it’s out there that differences can be more easily accepted and celebrated, and we don’t have to be like those people—white supremacists, male supremacists, or anyone else—who try to proclaim, with supreme unease, that we must submit to their rule and be like them to be full members of what they think is their society.  To paraphrase Baldwin: When they stop thinking like this, not only will all of us be freer, they, too, will also be freer than they ever thought they could be.

Another note:  Kloie Valdez reads scripture, Ann Louise Kuehn sings “Bayan Ko,” one of the Philippines’ great patriotic songs.  I cut the song short because when she’s singing the mic does not pick up the instrumental track she’s singing to.  Read more about “Bayan Ko” HERE.

  Hear another sermon, this one on Sacred Doing.

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We Ignore Our Neighbor’s Potential At Our Own Peril

TNP-Logo1At the last event Emmanuel House held as Emmanuel House—an April 2018 Gala at Aquaviva Winery—my son Rick Guzman gave what I thought was his best speech ever.  In 2016 Emmanuel House was named one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world.  “I’ve often wondered why our small organization was chosen,” Rick said.  “I think,” he continued, “that it was more than just having a good program.  It was because we had this unshakable belief that every man, woman, and family had something to contribute to their community.”

Now, of course, Emmanuel House has become The Neighbor Project after merging with its long-time partner The Joseph Corporation, but this belief that every man, woman, child, and family has something to contribute remains central.  The VIDEO BELOW shows a couple of minutes from our “big reveal,” a May 15th event held at Aurora’s Paramount Theater, where the formal announcement of the merger and the new Neighbor Project name was announced.

TNP-SharedWhen it came time for Rick to speak, he opened by reasserting, again, that everyone can contribute—everyone has a right to contribute.  “We ignore the promise and potential of our neighbors at our own peril,” he said, articulating an idea that applies broadly to so many situations in our world today.  “When our neighbors prosper, so do we…Economists speak about ‘Inclusive Growth,’ and Sociologists speak about about interdependence instead of independence.”  He concluded by saying that at The Neighbor Project a “shared destiny is foundational to our approach and central to our identity.”

  After watching the video below, watch a video introducing The Neighbor Project.

  Go to the old Emmanuel House website to learn more about how its home ownership program works, a program which will remain central to The Neighbor Project.  And go to the Emmanuel House main page on this site, where the history of that organization continues to be kept and added to.

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For Hirsch Diamant and the 2007 Peace Festival, Oregon

Peace is choosing peace
Ploughshares and pruning hooks
Could be beaten
Back to what they were

Choose not to
We dance the tai chi
We part the wild horse’s mane
Our hands flow in circles

Like clouds, we play
The pipa, pose like white
Storks cooling their wings
Choose this

Shadows forever haunt
Our dance: these moves can
Strike eyes, dislocate jaws
Shoulders, spiral down

Dreaming punches and parries
Do not choose this
Choose the bright dance
Choose peace

  Go to poems and poetry commentary

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